Shadow of the Silk Road

by Colin Thubron

Quotes & Notes
by Stephen Balbach, September 2007

See main review at Cool Reading.


On travelling:
"A hundred reasons clamour for your going. You go to touch on human identities, to people an empty map. You have a notion that this is the world's heart. You go to encounter the protean shapes of faith. You go because you are still young and crave excitement, the crunch of your boots in the dust; you go because you are old and need to understand something before it is too late. You go to see what will happen.
(Ch "Dawn", pp.2-3)
"I'm afraid of nothing happening, of experiencing nothing. That is what the modern traveller fears."
(Ch. "The Capital", p.25)
"Bento de Goes, the Jesuit lay brother, who was cheated of his money and died here destitute in 1607. His remains lay somewhere under the wheatfields and run-down factories. Even now this is the kind of death - not by sickness, but by heartlessness - that sends a chill through travellers' bones."
(Ch. "The Last Gate Under Heavan")
Thousands of miles from anyone who knows you, you have the illusion that your past is lighter, scarcely yours at all. Even your ties to love have been attenuated (the emergency satellite phone in my rucksack, and nobody calls). Dangerously, you may come to feel invulnerable. You fear only your failure to understand or to reach where you are going."
(Ch. "The Southern Road", pp.114-15)

On changing China:
"Responsibility could no longer be displaced upward, but had come to rest, with guilt, in the confines of the self. Implicitly Mingzaho is announcing the death of the whole Confucian order, which places in an immutable hierarchy every person under heaven.. I imagine a huge, tetonic shift beneath the Chinese surface, as the timeless submission of selfhood to the group loosens into the individual life."
(Ch. "The Capital")
"..what hallmark identifies religion.. in Christianity it is love.. in Islam perhaps Justice.. in China it is Integrity"
(Ch. "The Capital")

Beautiful quotes:
"When I approach, a soldier raises his arm and waves me away. It is the gesture of somebody wiping a plane of glass. It washes the air clear of anything I have witnessed. This does not exist, it says, this you will not remember."
(Ch. "Kashgar", p.147)
"The old woman believed the boy's illness sprang from anxiety. Sickness, to her, was fear."
(Ch. "The Mountain Passage", p.164)